Mumbai Crime: High Court sends death penalty ruling back to trial court for raping minor
It asked the trial court to reconsider the evidence and decide whether to hold a retrial or proceed anew from framing of charges stage
Three years after a Thane court awarded death penalty to a man for raping and murdering a seven-year-old girl, the Bombay HC sent the case back to it on account of procedural lapses. A bench of justices B P Dharmadhikari and P D Naik set aside the trial court's order awarding Atul Rama Lote death penalty. It asked the trial court to reconsider the evidence and decide whether to hold a retrial or proceed anew from framing of charges stage.
On September 28, 2016, the Thane court awarded Lote death sentence. He was accused of abducting, raping and killing the minor daughter of an acquaintance in 2014. When the state government's petition seeking confirmation of death sentence was taken up by the HC, Lote's lawyer Yug Chaudhary pointed out certain lapses. In February 2014, the police charge-sheeted Lote under Sections 363, 366 (A) (kidnapping a woman), 376 (rape) and 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, Chaudhary said.
"Generally, these offences attract life imprisonment or 10 years in jail, and death is awarded only in the "rarest of rare cases", he argued. "On September 26, 2016, two days before the sentence was passed, the prosecution invoked Section 376(2) of IPC (rape of a victim under 12 years of age) and provisions of the POCSO Act, making it a case fit for death penalty," the lawyer said. "The court should not have permitted amendment of charges two days before the verdict," he added.
No legal aid
He also argued that Lote did not get proper legal assistance from his lawyers. The HC has refused to acquit Lote, and said instead the trial court must consider him an under-trial and re-examine proceedings.
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